1% Challenge a surprising success, Page says
Page had asked the convention's 45,000 churches to consider a 1 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving, which would add $100 million to the funding stream for Southern Baptist missions and ministries.
"The 1% Challenge began almost two years ago and has received a great deal of positive attention. Honestly, more than I thought it would," Page told EC members in Nashville. "I thought ... it might have some traction until we got a more comprehensive strategy in place."
But the challenge has caught on, Page said, and at least 15 percent of Southern Baptist churches either have adopted the challenge or are seriously considering it. "It's making a difference," he said.
Also in his report to trustees, Page previewed a sweeping initiative still in the planning stages: Great Commission Advance.
"We will present the bare bones of this at the Houston convention [in June], but it will be developed much, much more over the next year and then presented in fullness in 2014," Page said.
Great Commission Advance, Page said, is an aggressive global vision -- reaching the world for Christ -- based on a strong home base, fueled by the Cooperative Program. The initiative will start in 2014 and go through 2020, Page said, and it will begin with a massive emphasis on stewardship.
Among the goals of Great Commission Advance are 7,000 international missionaries, 10,000 new churches in North America in the next 10 years and reduced seminary education costs for students. State conventions can add their own specific goals, Page said.
"Friends, I do believe we're in a new day where we have an opportunity to do some things together better than we've ever done before," Page said. "We've struggled with trust in the past. We've struggled with really respecting one another.
"I believe we're seeing a day and a time where we realize the enemy is so powerful and the world is going to hell so quickly we must work together," Page said. "We don't have an option anymore. This us/them mentality has got to go. So I'm begging you to come together so that we can work together to do the work of the Lord."
Also in his report, Page said an area he has worked hard on during the past year is ethnic relationships. Through the Hispanic Advisory Council and the African American Advisory Council, Page said, he has been working with ethnic brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage deeper involvement in the convention than ever before.
Soon Page expects to announce the members of an Asian Advisory Council. "That is such an important group of ethnics within our culture," he said.
"Of our 45,000 churches, almost one in four is ethnic in some fashion -- almost 10,000," Page noted. "Our leadership in all of our convention needs to reflect that ethnic diversity. Let's work hard on that."
Page said he will be working with David Dockery, president of Union University, on an Educational Summit where representatives from colleges, universities and seminaries will work specifically on "making education more accessible to our ethnic brothers and sisters."
Another area of concern during the past year, Page said, has been working toward unity on Calvinism. The advisory council he formed expects to deliver a report to the convention at the annual meeting in Houston, he said.
"While I'm a non-Calvinist, I'm not an anti-Calvinist," Page said. "Again, friends, if there was ever a day and time when we all need to be at the table together so that we can work together in missions and evangelism, it's today....
"We've got a long way to go, but we're going to come to a new day of saying, 'We respect each other and we are going to work together to win this world for Christ,'" Page said.
On the Saturday before June's SBC annual meeting in Houston, Page said, he'll be in the "roughest, poorest" part of the city going door to door, sharing the Gospel as part of the yearly Crossover evangelism initiative. He challenged SBC leaders and others to join him.
Also in his report, Page mentioned two particular issues that call for increased prayer in the coming days: the anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and the Boy Scouts of America's vote on whether to allow homosexual troop leaders and members.
The Supreme Court's decision, Page said, could "affect our entire culture." He added, "We need to pray." Regarding the Boy Scouts, "God's people spoke up and spoke up loudly," he said. "Continue to do that, please."
Page began his report by showing a Cooperative Program promotion video produced by the Missouri Baptist Convention titled "From You to Eternity," illustrating how a tithing Southern Baptist impacts the world.
"That's one of the things we're trying to do -- some collaborative work with our state partners and entity partners. We come up with that which is best and then we share that and help provide those resources so that all of our state conventions can utilize those resources," Page said. The video can be accessed at www.mobaptist.org/cp.
Page recognized Jamie Jordan for 30 years of service as a convention attorney alongside Jim Guenther. The two serve as the Executive Committee's outside general counsel.
He also recapped the roles of each Executive Committee office: convention policy, convention communications and relations, convention finance and convention advancement.
At the close of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Page reported, revenues exceeded the Executive Committee budget by more than $384,000, expenses were under budget by $336,000, and an undesignated reserve fund reached more than $5 million.
"Financially, the Executive Committee is in a very positive state of rebound, and we praise God for that," Page said. "I told you before that we will always be fiscally careful. I am frugal in my own personal life and I believe it is God's money and we must be good stewards. We have worked hard to do this."
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).